by Maggie Calhoun, VISTA volunteer with Mesquite Works
Individual efforts, planning, and hopes for Mesquite’s growth are coming together as this article is printed. Efforts by MRBI, a local economic development group, are bringing new businesses here with many new jobs to fill. Planning for training the local workforce in skills has been a priority with Mesquite Works, a new non-profit sponsored by MRBI. Much of the hope part rests on the new local entity, VISTA.
Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) is neither a new organization nor an unknown quantity. President John Kennedy originated this idea along with the foreign based Peace Corps. President Lyndon Johnson formalized the domestic service in 1965. Since then, thousands of volunteers have worked in many ways to meet their shared goal – eliminate poverty. Originally, conscientious people focused primarily on improving school programs and vocational training for the underprivileged classes. The Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 defined its purpose as supplementing community efforts to fight poverty in three ways – encourage local volunteerism, generate private sector resources, and strengthen local agencies and organizations serving low-income people.
How does Mesquite fit into VISTA? Two VISTA volunteers finished a four day training and swearing-in session on November 18 in Los Angeles and then headed home to Mesquite, NV. MarDee Harper and myself will be reporting to our supervisor, George Gault of MRBI, who is a former VISTA staff member himself. Hearing of the training, Gault agreed that “the wealth and breadth of the knowledge and resources now available to us” was certainly worth the time and effort. How will we begin our work? “Initially, we will work with Mesquite Works Board members to prepare the new office at 312 W Mesquite Blvd. That may well start with scrub brushes and furniture moving before we get systems and equipment established,” said MarDee Harper. She will be working closely with operations and community services to engage them in cooperating with the Mesquite Works programs. “It takes all of us to create the network which enables our low income people to work up and out of poverty.”
The second position is one of “dollars and sense” for VISTA in Mesquite. I’ll be out in the community groups explaining the “sense” of improving our local workforces’ abilities, and the “cents” in matching business needs with workers’ skills. The most enduring growth we can help to create here is a higher income for our better skilled local working people. The jobs are coming. We want our people to reap their benefits. Generating donations, grants, and stable funding is also a large part of the work plan. It is my hope that widespread community interest and personal involvement will encourage investing in the long term financial stability of Mesquite Works.
A third paid VISTA position is currently available with Mesquite Works. Curriculum materials, volunteers, and training are also vital parts in the overall program which benefits both employers and employees. Although the approximately $1,000 a month may seem lean, the 30-35 hour work week can stretch over all seven days. MarDee and I agree that the strength in VISTA is “a willing hand up whenever and pretty much wherever it’s needed.”
Anyone interested in the position or in other volunteer service is asked to call Burton Weast at (503) 708-5222. For more information, you may also contact me at (360) 904-1090.